Ladylike at CASA Festival of Latin America Art. Guest Review

Two female dancers, the front holding voluminous skirts and dancing while looking down, the back one dressed in red and dancing with hunched shoulders in the back. You can just about see another person behind them, but not what they are doing or anything significant.

Ella Mesma (left) and Azara Meghie (right) in one of the first performances of Ladylike at the Lilian Baylis Theatre, Sadler’s Wells, London. (c) Camilla Greenwood 2015

There were two shows, on the opening night of the 2019 CASA Festival of Latin American Artis in London. Of course I choose the dance piece Ladylike. The production performed by Ella Mesma Company combines traditional female gender roles with sexuality and high-quality dancing.

African-Caribbean sounds come together with Hip-Hop and Rumba to create an interesting fusion of music and modern dance. The four actresses involved in the piece showcase their dancing skills by switching from Latin Dance, to Hip-Hop, Breakdance and Contemporary Dance.

Like a Lady: Ladylike

The topic behind the story is based on the #metoo movement and looks at gender roles from different perspectives. Locked up by a circle of chicken food, are four women (‘chicks’) displaying aspects of the traditional perception of women: cleaning duties, grocery shopping and cooking, sexuality and beauty. One of the four appears like a man in most scenes showing the relation between the two genders that is mainly influenced by sexual attraction shown in offensive movements, gazing at the other gender and taking control whilst dancing together.

From the first scene on, sexuality plays an important role and is displayed on stage in such a way that makes me understand why there’s an age restriction. Towards the end it grows into a cry for help from the audience. Every scene is self-explanatory and combines a serious topic with both charm and wit. An example: when was the last time you indulged into a sexy shower of chicken soup and washed your hair in herbs? The show turns very serious at the end, by raising questions of consent and control over the female body.

We were captured by their stunning display of skills on this, the opening night. It might have been due to personal experience, but every woman has probably experienced something similar and can therefore easily relate to the scenes and feelings involved. Just in case there’s anybody in the audience who can’t relate, engagement is encouraged by eye contact between performers and audience, or by making us move their feet out of the way to sweep the floor.

 

Talented dancers and a convincing message

The talented dancers of the Ella Mesma Company display a wide range of dance styles in Ladylike, and each uses all the opportunities each style offers. They keep the audience engaged and interested throughout the piece and transmit a convincing message that everybody can relate to.

The piece was shown at the Arcola Theatre for the opening night of CASA – London’s festival of Latin American Arts. The whole festival still runs until 27th July 2019 with three more dates for Ladylike at the Arcola Theatre:

  • 18th July 2019 at 7.30 p.m.
  • 19th July 2019 at 7.30 p.m.
  • 20th July 2019 at 7 p.m.

The whole festival program includes other theatre shows, parties, dance and open air. For more details visit https://casafestival.org.uk/.

 

Ladylike is created and produced by Ella Mesma Company, a British based dance theatre company who use a diverse range of folkloric dancestyles inspired by director Ella Mesma’s background in Afro-Latin, Breaking and Contemporary dance. The performance has evolved over time, and the originals were forerunners of the #metoo movement by several years.

 

(editor)  Written by SEO expert Julia-Carolin Zeng, this guest post has been created and shared as part of the development of our media training and mentoring program for movement artists and dancers.

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